By Jeff Thomas,
Feature Writer for Doug Casey’s International Man and Strategic Wealth Preservation
Welcome to America, where your assets are literally the government’s business, and freedom is anything but free.”
Claire Bernish, the Free Thought Project
For some time, I’ve been forewarning readers that, as the governments of the former “free” world unravel, they’ll introduce capital controls, both to continue to fund their failing policies and to limit the freedom of their citizenries.
I’ve envisioned this as a “pincer” of sorts. First, it would be necessary to institute laws that allow authorities to confiscate the assets of anyone whom they “suspected” of a crime. (It’s essential to understand that an actual arrest is unnecessary, as that would allow the individual the opportunity to prove his innocence in a trial. No trial means he can never regain the confiscated assets.)
The second half of the pincer would be a law requiring the reporting of assets – a detailed declaration of all monetary holdings. (Of course, it would not be possible to keep such reporting thoroughly up to date, as it would be ever-changing. This would ensure virtually continual guilt through the failure to report.)
Civil Asset Forfeiture
In observing the US, we’re witnessing the completion of the pincer. The first half has been in place for some time, under the civil asset forfeiture laws. It’s been described as, “a process in which law enforcement officers take assets from persons suspected of involvement with crime or illegal activity without necessarily charging the owners with wrongdoing”.
That concept may seem odd to the reader, as, surely, if someone had committed a crime, the authorities would wish to charge him, then see to it that he was tried in court, so that he could be punished for his transgressions.
But what if the individual in question was not, in the traditional sense, a criminal; that a law had been written that would effectively define virtually all citizens as criminals? And what if the objective were not to prosecute offenders, but simply to rob them of their possessions?
In this light, Civil Asset Forfeiture makes complete sense. First, the authorities decide that they want to take what they desire from others. Then they target an individual who possesses desired assets (i.e., home, car, business, bank accounts, wealth in a safe deposit box, etc.) They then detain the individual, state that he’s suspected of a crime (Suspected drug dealer? Terrorist sympathizer? Possible tax cheat?) and seize his assets.
In this scenario, the authorities are actually advantaged by not charging the individual. He has no recourse, as he can’t demand his day in court for a charge that hasn’t been laid against him. Therefore, he can’t regain his assets and they become the property of the authorities.
Although Civil Asset Forfeiture never seems to appear on the evening news, it’s not because it’s a minor operation. Indeed, the total annual take now exceeds that of the annual totals for burglaries by traditional criminals (those who rob others without a badge).
Declaration of Assets
Considering the severity of the above, it would be difficult to imagine that the Civil Asset Forfeiture law is only half of the pincer, yet that’s exactly the case. The other half is Senate Bill 1241, which is intended “to improve the prohibitions on money laundering, and for other purposes”. It requires that anyone travelling beyond US borders declare his assets in writing and in detail, plus provide ongoing access to all accounts held by the individual. In essence, it’s providing the government with a license to track your cash, cryptocurrency and other assets in perpetuity. Should, at any point, your declaration come into question as to its accuracy, the entirety of those assets could be seized, not just those that were unreported. In addition, you could face a prison sentence of up to ten years.
The bill also seeks to curtail the individual’s right to travel outside the US. Whilst this may seem to be a less significant loss, as compared to the above, it serves the purpose of making it impossible for the individual to escape the clutches of his government by relocating to another country. He is, in effect, a trapped rat.
In addition, he’s a trapped rat who, having lost his assets to arbitrary confiscation, has been crippled economically. He can no longer defend himself, as he no longer has the means to pay an attorney.
How This Is Likely to Play Out
At present, asset confiscation is undertaken largely at a local level. Police go after many people at random. However, they also have the ability to target specific individuals that they know of, either for personal reasons or because they feel the haul would be substantial. Senate Bill 1241places the robberies on a national level. It provides a data base by which authorities can review possible targets, based upon their assets. It also allows the authorities the opportunity to go after those people who behaved in a manner deemed unacceptable to authorities.
For example, a national repository of information would allow authorities to target specific individuals who questioned the government or sought to live independently of governmental controls. Both Aldous Huxley and George Orwell described this concept as being central to the assurance that all citizens would be fully compliant with their rulers’ edicts, 100% of the time. One deviation from acceptable behaviour could result in a total loss of assets and freedom.
It would work like this: Like the FATCA legislation in the US, the premise is:
- An individual is required to provide a detailed report of his wealth (however small).
- The regulatory body chooses to regard the report as “in error” or “incomplete”.
- The law then allows all the assets to be confiscated, including those portions that were correctly reported.
Of course, we’d like to think that no reasonable government would abuse power in this way. Unfortunately, history shows that, any government that issues a license to itself to rob its citizenry, invariably uses (and abuses) that license.
The beauty of such a system is that it need not be enforced often. Once people understand that, at any moment, they could lose everything and have no recourse whatsoever, they learn to keep their heads down and be compliant.
From that point on, fear of government is a constant and the population is effectively under house arrest.
In the late eighteenth century, American founding father Thomas Jefferson stated, “When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny”.
When a country degrades to the point that the government can grip its people in the pincers of arbitrary loss of assets, with no chance of recompense through the justice system, it’s safe to say that people can plan on henceforth living in fear.